for the mushy peas
350ml chicken stock
100g green lentils
100g frozen peas
small onion finely chopped
pinch of asafoetida
juice of a lime
1 green chilli finely sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
750g cod or haddock fillets
for the marinade for the fish
thumb of fresh ginger – finely minced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp chilli powder
for the batter
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
300ml lager or light beer
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
plus a few tablespoons of flour to dust the fish – plain or self raising.
1kg King Edwards pototoes or any other “good chippers”
Start by getting your mushy peas on as the lentils take an hour to cook – this is perfect as it gives you time to prepare the herbs that will go into the dish shortly before it’s ready – and will also give you time to make the marinade for the fish and to actually let it marinade! And of course, deal with the crux of the whole assemblage which is the spiced batter.
Simply set your chicken stock to heat in a pan and add the lentils, chopped onion, bay leaf and asafoetida. Chop the herbs and squeeze the lime ready for later.
You can make the chips the day before (or much earlier) – and just have them in the fridge ready for their final fry. Chip the potatoes first, then par boil them (simmer for no longer than 8 minutes in well salted water) – drain and cool on a tray lined with kitchen paper or clean tea towels. Then, when cold, fry at 130°c for 8 mins or so so that they’re getting really soft but should be taking on virtually no colour. Again, turn out onto a lined tray and cool.
They’re now ready for their final stage which is to fry them in really hot oil (190°c) for 5 mins or until they’re sizzling and golden. These can be kept warm for the final 15 mins while the mushy peas are completed and the fish fried.
Turning to the marinade for the fish, simply combine the minced fresh ginger and garlic with the chilli powder and then turn the pieces of fish gently through it, cover in cling film and refrigerate while it marinates.
For the spiced batter, sift the flour and baking powder into a medium sized bowl and start to add the liquid – undoubtedly beer adds a richness and lightness but you can of course use water – or, as I mentioned in the clip on youtube, fizzy water. The first couple of tablespoons should be worked in with a fork which will start to make a paste, which, when more is added, will gradually let down in consistency until you end up with what should be a nice thick, but not gloopy, batter. When this stage is reached, you simply tip in the spice mix and whisk together till combined. Various theories exist which extol the virtues of allowing the batter to “mature” but I challenge anyone to taste the difference between fish fried in batter just made – compared to batter made an hour or more prior to use. The main thing is likely to be that any “resting” between making, and use, will give the chance for any lumps to melt away (although never hurts to give the batter a final quick whisk just ahead of coating the fish).
Check your lentils which should be soft after about 45 mins, at which point you can add the frozen peas to the pan.
Take the marinated fish from the fridge, dust in flour and then dip in the batter. Let the excess drip off for a second or two and plop deftly into the pan of oil which should be at about 190°c (happily the same as the chips’ final fry). Although I was seen putting about five or six pieces into the oil (again, the Youtube clip exists as evidence!), this was probably too many as you really need to maintain that very high temperature all the way through – and since most people’s hobs don’t have gas rings with the capacity of a Harrier on full reheat (if only! My imagination pops at what I could do to Brenda!), this will realistically mean doing two or three at a time and keeping your earlier ones warm in the oven along with the chips.
Just before serving, stir the chopped herbs and lime juice through the lentil/peas mix and season.
I’m not that keen on “twists” normally – but this is truly delightful.